My mother was always particular in who she bought food from. For salted fish, she must buy from her mother's relatives, and as for ern chow or red wine lees, we had a constant supply from her village, Ah Nang Chong where her sisters in law constantly made Foochow Red Wine.
Fish and ern chow make a good marriage since time immemorial.
This photo was taken not too long ago in Fuzhou City, in a very popular Siao Chi dien, Wang Da. I was very impressed by the fish dish, all steamed in ern chow. It reminded me of my grandma's cooking.
Grandma was a child bride, bought for 5 silver dollars (for every year of her age) from Key Tou Puoh in Minqing. At the age of 5 she came to the Lau family and lived in San Kay, Bandong before she sailed to Sarawak, where she married my maternal grandfather 15 years her senior. She was only 15 when she married my 30 year old grandfather. It was not exactly a love match to say the least.
Grandma's favourite fish was muang ngii, even though we could have a good supply of other fish. Muang Ngii or eel you see is a Fujian delicacy and almost every Foochow would have a nostalgic love for the fish, be it fresh or salted, even though it can be quite boney to some people.
We Foochows are good with boney fish.
Muang ngii was often marinated with ern chow and salt for half a day. And in the evening, grandma would shallow fry the fish pieces for our dinner. All of us children would carefully pull the fish bone from our mouth, and then slowly savour the fish..
It was such a nice meal, eating fish with grandma in our kitchen in Sibu. She visited us in that house until it was demolished, and later when we had our shop house built on that piece of land, she continued to visit us, until 1985 when she passed away.
A good meal, no matter what dishes we have, is always memorable eaten together with people we love.
(One day when I get some fresh muang ngii in Miri, I will cook it just the way my Ngie mah liked..with ern chow).